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Amber Dawn finalist for Vancouver Book Award

Author nominated for her memoir, How Poetry Saved My Life

Amber Dawn's memoir, How Poetry Saved My Life, is a finalist for a 2013 Vancouver Book Award. Credit: Courtesy of Amber Dawn

Queer Vancouver author Amber Dawn has been named as a finalist for a Vancouver Book Award for How Poetry Saved My Life, a memoir of her time as a sex-trade worker.

"I'm thrilled to be shortlisted," Amber Dawn tells Xtra.

"Any large city like Vancouver is going to have a lot of stories that come from more vulnerable people. It makes me more grateful that mine was chosen."

She says the book covers a 10-year period of her life where she transformed from being a street worker to an activist.

The book reveals a personal landscape — the terrain of sex work, queer identity and survivor pride — and offers a frank, multifaceted portrait of the author's experiences hustling the streets of Vancouver and describes how those years affected her self-esteem and nearly destroyed her.

The former Vancouver Queer Film Festival programmer says poetry and literature — as the title suggests ― acted as a lifeline during her most pivotal moments.

In addition to Amber Dawn's memoir, two books of poetry and two non-fiction works reflecting Vancouver's diverse history and culture have also been selected as finalists this year.

Before writing her memoir, Amber Dawn won a Lambda Award for her debut novel Sub Rosa, earned a master's of fine arts in creative writing from the University of British Columbia, and won awards for her film Girl on Girl, which was screened in eight countries. She also received the 2012 Writers' Trust of Canada Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBT writers.

The 25th annual City of Vancouver Book Award will be presented at the Mayor's Arts Awards Gala at Science World on Nov 22.

The other finalists are Jancis M Andrews, for The Ballad of Mrs Smith, a collection of poems about a fall from grace and redemption; Brad Cran, for Ink on Paper, a collection of poetry about often marginalized people from the city's former poet laureate; Harold Kalman and Robin Ward, for Exploring Vancouver: The Architectural Guide, which offers an extensive tour of the city's past and present buildings and demonstrates how the city's natural setting inspired a quintessential West Coast style; and Sean Kheraj for Inventing Stanley Park.

The five shortlisted titles were chosen by an independent jury.